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Durham e-Theses
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Nilhilism in Nietzsche, Heidegger and Levinas

Smith, Toby (2006) Nilhilism in Nietzsche, Heidegger and Levinas. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis presents an account of nihilism in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, and a critical response to it using the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas. Chapter one gives an account of the three different types of nihilism in Nietzsche’s writings, and of how the latest outbreak of nihilism, modern European, came about. Chapter two presents Nietzsche's own responses to modern European nihilism, focusing on the overman, the will to power, the eternal recurrence and his view of truth, and points out the disturbing ethical implications of Nietzsche's responses to nihilism. Chapter three places Nietzsche’s philosophy within the context of Heidegger's account of nihilism as 'forgetfulness of Being', and considers Heidegger's critique of Nietzsche and the notion of 'values', Heidegger's account of the philosophical tradition since Plato, and his reflection on our ‘technological' understanding of Being as an inevitable result of the 'forgetfulness of Being’. Chapter four discusses how Being and Time and its critique of Descartes and the subject-object distinction can be seen as a response to nihilism as the 'forgetfulness of Being՝, and as an implicit part of Heidegger's critique of Nietzsche. Chapter five considers Heidegger’s response to nihilism in terms of his writings on authenticity, art, language, and thinking, and shows how all of these features of Heidegger's thought aim to attune us to Being as the mysterious 'source' of all particular understandings of being, a source to which we are beholden for the sense we are able to make in our lives. The potentially dangerous features of this picture of human life are then addressed, as is the lack of an explicitly ethical dimension to Heidegger's response to Nietzsche's explicitly ethical account of nihilism. Chapter six gives an account of Levinas's phenomenology of ethics and his critique of Heidegger and the philosophical tradition as 'philosophies of the Same'. It presents Levinas's theses concerning the importance of the other person in giving philosophical accounts of language, truth, and objectivity, and the heteronomous nature of the moral subject, as a way of making good the lack of an explicitly ethical response to Nietzschean nihilism in Heidegger’s philosophy.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2006
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 09:52

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